Thursday, June 07, 2007

Have you ever used it?

I've been instructing, more or less on my own, since 1983, and when I owned my own schools, I was invariably asked, at one point or another, "So, have you ever used it?" There was always a slight pause as I struggled to come up with the right angle to the answer. One answer is that I "use it every day." That would pique their curiousity, and I would elaborate:

Martial arts are for not fighting, not fighting. Got that? What I explained was that people fight for many reasons, but mostly they have a choice. Other than in true self-defense, there's almost always a choice. Walk away. Apologize. Be polite. Don't be a jerk. From where does that confidence come, to walk away? Martial arts can provide that confidence. I used to say that when you're really good at fighting that you don't have anything to prove. You can also exude a relaxed self-assuredness that can put people at ease. This isn't always true, but if you teach your students in a way that build confidence, this will be a result.

One of my many proud days as an instructor was when I was going to one of my schools to cover for an advanced (black belt) class, and one of the students was outside waiting with one of his friends. He was in uniform, but without his black belt. Our policy was to have students remove their belts outside of class to avoid provoking others. His friend told me that something had happened before I got there. He said that a group of youngsters had approached the two and asked them if they were "Karate" students, and stating the obvious, my student said yes. With a smirk, the group asked what belt the student was, and he told them white belt. Did he tell the truth? No. He avoided having someone get hurt. That was self defense! The group moved on. I guess there's no challenge in beating up a beginner...

I plan to post several real-life stories that actually answer the question of, "have you ever used it," but meanwhile, share your stories at the Convocation thread here.

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